October 5th, it is time to move along to Santa Barbara. After the crazy storm last night sunrise was a welcome sight.
The weather looks perfect with blue skies and sunshine! As we pulled out of our anchorage, the Simplicity crew hailed us on the radio. They were on the bluff that we had hiked to the day before, waving. We blew the air horn at them and waved back. We used the motor all the way across the channel to Santa Barbara due to the lack of wind. Along the way we saw hundreds of Pacific Whiteside Dolphins. Some even came to play in our bow wake! Amazing!
We arrived in Santa Barbara 15 minutes after the marina closed so we had to call the harbor master’s office and wait 45 minutes for them to break free and assign us a slip. They said they had to tow in 3 boats from the outer anchorage last night due to the storm! I guess we didn’t have it so bad. Our slip was way at the end of the marina. Only one boat was further out. We were about a quarter mile from the gate, was it because we were late? Oh well, we need the exercise! We went out to eat in the little pub on the dock and watched the Yankees lose big time.
Santa Barbara is a cool beach town. There is a walkway along a wide sand beach with volleyball courts, a whole street (State St.) which is closed to cars and lined with restaurants allowing tons of outdoor seating, and of course the marina also with a promenade for walking along the water. We went for a jog in the morning, showered and ate breakfast. We did a few boat chores: sprayed the salt off of Sacagawea, polished the windows, topped off the water, and did laundry. Then we set up the bikes and trailer for some provisioning. We biked to the top of the hill on State Street, a decent effort. I asked Bill how much further, I was thinking that it was only a couple of miles to the store. He checked his phone and said with a grin, “only a mile and a half, that way” pointing down the hill we had just come up! He called it sight-seeing, I called it a detour. Anyway, we made it! Shopping always takes so much longer than it should because every grocery store is new for us. We don’t know where anything is so we go up and down every aisle and always have a few odds and ends missing like ginger for sushi or Roses Lime juice that we have to hunt for. I am learning to just expect an hour and relax about it. Nothing happens fast on the boat! For a reward we stopped at a nice restaurant for dinner just as the sun set.
Our next stop was Ventura, CA. We just stopped there to avoid an overnight passage but it turned out that it was a nice marina and we made some new friends. We wound our way into the marina and docked on our second try, not looking too professional. The guy on the boat to our right, Remedy, didn’t think anything of it and was quick to strike up conversation. They are planning to head out at the same time as the Baja Ha Ha fleet and crash the parties. We can’t wait to call them out, LOL! We went for a walk around the grounds over to the beach. There was a movie being filmed on the beach! I was amazed but apparently it happens all the time around here in Southern California, nobody else seemed impressed. We wandered back passing a boat named Wanderment, a “fraternal twin” to one of Bill’s father’s favorite words. We chatted more with Remedy, lapping up the kool-aid they were pouring about the amazing experience of the Sea of Cortez- the relaxed schedule, beauty, warm water… Feeling all warm and fuzzy we ate dinner and got ready to sail to Marina Del Rey in the early morning.
The weather report was for high winds to start north of point Hueneme and Mugu about noon. Our plan was to set out early and stay ahead of it. We were up before the sun and ready to push off the dock at sunrise. We kept so far ahead of the wind that we never even got enough wind to sail. We motored almost 9 hours to Marina Del Rey’s Burton Chace state park and were directed to a slip. We pulled in and it was so short that we stuck out over half of our boat length. That didn’t work! They redirected us to a longer slip and we pulled in. Holy bird poop! It even smelled bad. We untied to go for a third option and the starter didn’t turn over. This has been happening on and off and the other times we just turned the battery selector to house bank plus starter battery and it has worked. Not this time. We let Sacagawea rest while we walked the dock to find a less guano-glazed spot. There was a perfect spot available, big enough for Sacagawea, no bird poop, and only two slips away from the gate, who needs exercise? The motor turned right over once it had cooled down a bit and we moved.
After all of that frustration we wanted to crack some beers but discovered an engine oil leak instead. We checked the level, low. We hope no damage was done! Yikes! Friday evening of course (why is it always Friday evening?) Bill called about 10 different mechanics and one said they could maybe come look in a couple days which is better than the 6 weeks that the others said they were available. Well, there was nothing else we could do so, we cracked some beers and relaxed. The next day we changed the oil and filter. It came out like tar. I felt like a bad mom.
We set up the bikes and went exploring. We were moored in front of a pretty city park, Burton Chace Park, with people enjoying picnics, yoga, walking dogs, jogging, and kids playing, even music at night for a couple of events. A nice bike path went through the park, along the marina past numerous restaurants, and onward through town to a crazy beach area, Venice Beach, with a carnival-like atmosphere. We stayed for dinner and made it back just as the sun was setting.
Bill’s cousin and his significant other joined us the next afternoon for a tour of our boat and dinner at a fun place called The Warehouse. We ate way too much, caught up on all the family goings-on and said good-bye way past sunset. They had a pretty good drive ahead to get home or I am sure the party would have continued! As it was, the party in the Bay was in full swing with party boats bedazzled with light shows pumping music as they did laps in the Basin. We joined in with our own little speakers and flashing LED lights on the arch, just for fun!
We were doing a few boat chores the next day when a very large bull sea lion decided to haul out on our dock. He was blocking the entire dock and looked like a total know-it-all. Some of our dock neighbors could not get back to their boats. After an hour, we offered to dinghy people around the obstruction. We were also stuck as we had planned to do another bike ride over to West Marine for some more oil, oil filters, and a couple other odds and ends and he was between us and our bikes! Oh well, nothing happens fast on the boat! Get used to it. Lion left in the early morning, freeing our bikes and us. We did those errands and put the bikes away. Tomorrow we are casting off to go to Avalon on Catalina Island!
Sadly, nobody came to look at our electrical issue or the oil leak. I had cleaned all the oil from under the oil pan and off the front of the engine after we discovered the leak so that we could monitor for any continued leaking. My hands and arms are little so I can reach into all of these small areas. Bill has to handle all of the tall man and strong man stuff! No oil leaked over the last four days, the level was good on the dip stick, we decided we will watch really closely as we continue our trip. Bill made an appointment with a mechanic in San Diego where we have a slip for 10 days. The mechanic promised to be there at 2:30 the day we pull in. Fingers crossed!
We pulled out of Burton Chace Park at a leisurely 8:30 am with the oil level still good and a few gallons of spare oil in the storage lazarette. We arrived in beautiful Avalon Bay at 3:00 still good on oil. We found two friends from Seattle already settled in. The process to get a mooring in this busy anchorage is to wait for the harbor master to come out to you in their boat and take payment, then they assign the spot. Next we had to find the numbered buoy assigned and pick up the bow loop. After attaching it, put the motor into neutral then follow the slimy muddy line aft (they call it the “sand line” but I renamed it the “slime line”) until the stern loop is located and attach that to the aft cleat. We heard many stories about unsuccessful attempts, props grabbing the slime line, bumping into neighboring boats, etc. Not us! Yay!
We looked at going to the historic Casino but found out it is a museum not a gambling casino (“casino” in Italian meant “gathering place”), so we let our friends know and they were very disappointed.
Then we thought we would go to the Brew Pub but found out it closes at 2pm and serves coffee, not beer. We let our other friends know and they were also very disappointed, lol. I think they might not answer our next call as we only have bad news to share. Strange place! We walked the town instead and met up for dinner with all of our Seattle buddies on a patio deck overlooking the harbor. Success! We had a wonderful meal, great company, and a fabulous sun set.
The next day we took the dinghy in and set out to see the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens. Halfway there the Stella J crew, including Raime the old chocolate lab, came buzzing up in a rented golf cart and offered a ride. Sure! We toured the gardens of desert plants and climbed the steps to the memorial. It was very interesting and educational. Because of the ride we had enough time to do the beautiful Garden to Summit hike. What a great day! Dinner on the boat and an evening booze cruise to talk with known friends, check out other boats, and of course meet new friends on a catamaran from Hawaii with crew from Missoula. They are also doing the Baja Haha rally. Small world! Tomorrow we will stay at Oceanside for a night then on to San Diego, the starting line for the Baja Haha rally to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
We left Avalon wishing we had a couple of more days there, but excited to be getting so close to San Diego. Stella J decided to buddy boat along with us to San Diego via Oceanside, so we set off at 7:30am and by 8:30 there was a nice breeze pushing us toward Oceanside. We put up the Genoa sail and had a quiet relaxing sail until 10 when the wind took a break. While we were motoring we saw several clumps of mylar balloons floating in the water and managed to snag a couple of them with the boat hook as we went by.
Just after lunch someone turned the wind back on and we sailed the rest of the way! Oceanside seemed mostly closed down from COVID. There was a big restaurant which was closed and a few shops, all closed. We were directed to use the restaurant dock for our overnight moorage. This dock did not have water or an electric plug-in, oh well, it is just one night. Our friends on Stella J docked on the other side of the marina, 100 yards away by dinghy or a nice three quarters of a mile walk around on the path. We walked over to their boat for a happy hour and got our doggie lovin’s from Raime, the old chocolate lab. We invited the whole family over for sourdough pancakes the next morning. It turns out it was the first time Raime had been on a different boat. She did great! Once we got her old stiff hips up onto the side deck she made herself comfortable on the cockpit cushions. The Stella J crew loved the pancakes and wanted some sourdough starter. We went through the directions and sent them off excited to try it. On-out to San Diego!!!!
We untied the lines and set off to Mission Bay at 10am with Stella J on our heels. We motored all the way, arriving at 3pm. The anchorage was crowded. We have found a trick for crowded anchorages; using the radar to show 165 foot radius rings. We maneuver to a spot so that no boat is inside that ring on the radar and drop the anchor there. We are safe assuming we are anchoring in the usual 20 to 30 ft deep water. We let out anchor chain four times the depth so we won’t hit anyone outside a 165 foot radius. If it is deeper we use the 330 foot ring. Pretty tricky! It was so warm out, even hot! I watched the Stella J crew dive in and decided to do the same. Yay! Swimming off the boat! Brrrrrrr it is only 67 degrees! Eventually we will be in warm water. We got ready to go out to eat with Stella J. They picked us up in their dinghy. We easily landed on a calm soft sand beach, so nice! We secured the dinghy to a pole and proceeded to cross the busy street into the craziness of Mission Beach. Mission Bay and Mission Beach, just a few dozen yards apart in distance, worlds apart in atmosphere! Full bellies and tired from the journey, we strolled back to the dinghy and fell into bed early. We were staying here another night, Stella J was moving over to San Diego proper in the morning and leaving for Mexico a week ahead of us. I am sure we will cross paths again!
As I would expect in California, the weather was perfect the next day. We went back to Mission Beach to find a place to watch NFL football. There were lines at every bar. We waited in a short line to a bar with an open air upstairs deck and surprisingly had no trouble scoring a table right in front of the screen showing the Patriots! Bill’s friend surprised us, showing up unexpectedly near half time. Fun! His wife joined us after work at the boat and even brought huge burritos for dinner, what a great time!
October 18, we moved to our slip at the Marriott in the Gaslamp area downtown. Of course we passed a large warship in the narrowest part of the channel.
We were warned that we MUST be 55 feet or less, not an inch over. They said they would measure us and kick us out without a refund if we were over length. We are 57 feet overall with the dinghy and the anchor. We pulled the dinghy behind us so it wouldn’t count as length and we moved the anchor off of its roller and onto the deck so we would be exactly 54 feet if you don’t count the solar panels. Fingers crossed! Our slip assignment turned out to be the first one right by the ramp and up against the busy embarcadero boardwalk. Bill managed to gracefully back into our slip. It was amazing! He had one shot and 3 feet to work with or disastrophy would be upon us and we would become a reality show for hundreds of people along the embarcadero close enough to watch. Instead, we looked like pros! I stepped off the boat 6 inches from the dock and standing still, tied the lines without so much as a tug because Sacagawea was sitting perfectly in the skin tight slip. Bill’s friend and his wife came over later with some birthday gifts for me, totally unexpected! And a CAR! We drove to an awesome fish shack, an “eat what we caught today” place. Of course I had the lobster, fabulous! Tomorrow I am flying out to visit Mom in Hilton Head, South Carolina then Dad in Columbus, Ohio. Bill is going to finish shore preparations and we leave November 1st for Mexico!